Get Rich Or Die Tryin' is the latest album from the most hyped new rapper on the planet, 50 Cent. It's his first release on Shady Records, since he signed to them earlier this year. Ever a prolific artist, Mr Cent has thoughtfully included three excellent bonus tracks in addition to the original sixteen. Here I examine this musical Mona Lisa in the detail it deserves.
- Intro: A three second track, with some jingling change and a pistol being cocked. You better get used to the latter sound effect because, for the next hour, "incessant" is not a strong enough word.
- What Up Gangsta: This is being tipped as the next single, and certainly it's a possibility. This pretty much your typical 50 Cent track: a simple yet catchy chorus, mumbled yet strangely delicate rhymes, and of course the staple topics of drug selling and pimping bitches.
- Patiently Waiting: 50 of course wanted to get his mentor Eminem to appear on the album at the earliest opportunity, and here he is. 50 Cent raps first, and manages to mention September 11th within 10 seconds. He also has the line, "When I die, they'll read this and say a genius wrote it." Now don't get me wrong, I do like 50 Cent (I bought this album, after all) but I would not call him a genius, lyrically or otherwise. Good to see that the fame hasn't gone to his head, anyway. The mic is then passed to Shady, with a perfect example of what he does best on guest appearances: matching the style of his host. So he raps quickly, with some fabulous flow and slick rhymes, but remarkably little actual content. Oh, and he mentions September 11th too, bringing the total to two so far.
- Many Men (Wish Death):
The intro for this song is someone getting shot, which is quite amusing the first time and thereafter incredibly annoying. 50 Cent evidently picked the title for this song very cleverly, because the song is about many men wishing death on him. He did get shot fairly recently, so perhaps they're moving up from just wishing it. The song itself is rather relaxing; "subtly uplifting" I would say, but that's a bit pretentious when talking about a song that's basically about being killed. Also, the gun-cocking sound effect is used approximately three hundred and fifty million times. Dr. Dre evidently warming up the button for track 7.
- In Da Club: I was recently on holiday in Siberia and I did meet a man there who hasn't heard this song. However, it took many weeks of searching to locate such a person. "I'm into having sex, I ain't into making love" he says. 50 Cent, not the Siberian old man. Anyway, a nice hand-clap beat and some Power Piano provides a solid background for 50's ever-imaginative lyrics. He manages to name-drop Dre, Eminem and Xzibit one after another, which is a feat in itself. (See the pun?)
- High All The Time: This song has another fairly placid beat, which 50 Cent completely ignores and raps in exactly the same style as all the other tracks. The chorus also has nothing to do with the lyrics, which are pretty tiresome by now. By this point, I'm starting to get bored of the album and get a bit depressed when I realise that there's thirteen tracks to go. I usually skip this track.
- Heat: Okay, this is more like it! 50 Cent gets back on track. It's tracks like this that made me like him in the first place. The beat consists mainly of the afore-mentioned pistol cocking effect, and said pistol being fired off. You'd think this would be quite painful, but Dr. Dre is a skilled producer indeed and he pulls it off admirably. The chorus is a bit uninspired, but if you're like me then you'll be nodding your head so furiously that nothing else really matters. Except the permanent brain damage. I particularly enjoy the part where he rhymes "by myself" with itself three times in a row.
- If I Can't: Another slightly pointless track. This one has more pianos and more handclaps. However, it's not all that catchy and even 50's usually strong timing is a little lacklustre here. It's one to nod your head to and I can see why some people would like it, but frankly I don't.
- Blood Hound: Going for the 'sandwich' style of good track / bad track, 50 Cent really hits his mark here. His timing is perfect and the beat weaves in with his voice just right. The way his voice randomly shifts pitch actually suits this backing, which has a very variable pitch itself. The end of each pair of couplets is also marked with a "Wwwwoooof" sound-effect (as per the title) which is fabulous to Woof along with. Young Buck of 50's crew "G Unit" also gets a turn to rap, and is shit.
- Back Down: The beat bears more than a passing resemblance to Nas' Oochie Wallie, but nothing wrong with a bit of homage. For some reason, I find 50's lyrics very entertaining on this track. They aren't anything special but they just strike a chord somewhere inside me. (More puns). This track also has a long and hilarious outro, with 50 Cent putting on a worryingly convincing camp voice. Has to be heard to be believed.
- P.I.M.P.: Another good track, 50 actually puts together some good rhymes here. There's a writing credit given to "D. Porter" and I have no clue who that is, but perhaps he offered 50 some handy tips like 'Don't rhyme words with themselves' or 'Don't mumble you cunt'. Whatever the case, this track is quite amusing and the title line "Can't you see, I'm a motherfucking P.I.M.P." may not be the work of a genius but I liked it.
- Like My Style: Well I thought it had been too long since the last crappy track, so 50 Cent has kindly included one here. He's also got his fellow G-Uniter Tony Yayo in on the act, but he might as well have got Tony Blackburn. It's like this 'Tony Yayo' and 50 Cent had a competition to see who could write the least witty, most rubbish lyrics. It was a close contest too, but the winner is Mr Yayo. Quite why 50 still hangs out with this bunch of no-hopers is one of life's great mysteries, like 'Where do babies come from?'. Back on topic, 50 Cent's timing again seems to desert him, and he has little else to offer. So, not my favourite track.
- Poor Lil Rich: Now we're talking! This track is one of the highlights of the album. 50's flows are smooth, his lyrics with some wit, and his chorus supremely catchy. It's a very Wanksta-style beat, which seems to suit him best. "I was a poor niggah, now I'm a rich niggah, gettin' paper, now you can't tell me shit niggah!" Okay so he's rhyming words with themself again but at least he's trying, and his dynamic vocals are mixed to perfection here. I don't know why they put such a strong track so near the end.
- 21 Questions: The current single is a bit poor, if you ask me. Nate Dogg does a good job as ever, his liquid vocals typically soothing. You have to respect 50 for exposing his sensitive side on a track, as so few rappers are willing to do, but the lyrics are just so uninteresting that I can't bring myself to like this track. The beat is also a bit annoying.
- Don't Push Me: The tension in the beat works well here, and 50 actually responds to the change of backing and raps accordingly. Also featuring is another G-Unit "favourite": probably the most imaginatively named rapper ever, Lloyd Banks. He actually pulls his weight, so can't complain about that. There's another appearance of Eminem too, but this time he's not so impressive. His rhymes are so convoluted that it's impossible to work out what he's talking about. They stuck this track right at the end, and I think it's obvious why.
- Gotta Make It To Heaven: An interesting inclusion, but a good conclusion. The chorus line, "I gotta make it to Heaven, I'm going through Hell" is very 2Pac-esque, and while the rest of the song can't quite match that rapper's skill, the influence is clearly there. This song does actually have some worthwhile content, with 50 contemplating the afterlife (in, of course, his own gangsta way). For this, I'm willing to forgive the totally inappropriate beat and his ever-present propensity for rhyming words with themselves. A good ending for the album proper.
- Wanksta: Well, they could hardly leave this off, could they? It's the track that first drew wider attention to 50 Cent, and one of the highlights of the 8 Mile soundtrack album. It's impossible not to like this. 50 has real charm, some fairly clever lines and the beat is the catchiest thing hip-hop has produced since Eminem's My Name Is (which was a sample anyway). I'm not certain why this wasn't on the album proper.
- U Not Like Me: The back of album doesn't bother to give the titles of the bonus tracks; it just says "Bonus cuts" in small letters. However, the liner notes lead me to believe that U Not Like Me is the title of this track. It's another rather good bonus track, evidently recorded after he was shot - "how many men could take nine?" he asks. Another of his lines is "Girls are like, 'Fiddy, you so witty'." I shan't comment.
- Life's On The Line: The final bonus track, and another good 'un. The beat is a tad unoriginal but 50 Cent gets his timing just right and lyrically is at least competant. Maybe not a sufficiently 'definitive' track to close the album with (perhaps U Not Like Me would have been better), but nevertheless the track as it stands is sound.
All in all, this album is exactly what you'd expect. The production, split between Dr. Dre and Eminem, is absolutely fantastic and the beats are unrivalled. 50 Cent puts together simplistic rhymes and his main skill, like Ice Cube before him, is a strong sense of rhythm and timing. Uniquely, he also has the lifestyle to match the attitude. I doubt he's still on the grind right now, but he does come from that background - unlike many of his contemporaries. The bonus tracks are all worthwhile inclusions, which is refreshing. Basically, if you liked Wanksta or In Da Club then you'll like this. It's mostly more of the same.
call: But doesn't the title make you want to vomit? Well, yes. I think most other rappers seem to project this "I'll do anything to get rich" image in an ironic fashion. 50 Cent, it seems, completely misses the point, and makes no secret of the fact that he is just in it for the money. Twat. On the other hand, an English parody of In Da Club called "In Da Pub" (by 50 Pence) is apparently taken from an album called "Get Rich Or Claim Benefit". Humour springs eternal.